There are many moments in my life where I can claim to have witnessed a true revolution in cycling.
The abandonment of woolen clothing, which doubled your body weight when wet, to lycra. Magical clipless pedals and the Carbon frame, ushering in frame geometry which meant you no longer looked to be riding a farmyard gate.
There are also those which flopped. The aerodynamic water bottle, the Kirk magnesium frame and Mavic Zapp electronic gears. Although some manufacturers with an eye on your wallet are still trying to get you to ‘plug in’ your bike.
However, I feel sure I am witnessing a new true revolution in Zwift, an online forum for fair weather cyclists hiding out during those winter months.
It promises to revolutionise cycle training indoors, for years the most dreaded of training regimes.
I set up my CycleOps cycle trainer to work with Zwift. All I needed was to fit a Garmin speed sensor on the rear hub, a cadence monitor which came with it on the crank arm and an ANT+ sensor plugged into a USB port on my computer.
Having logged into Zwift you can choose the free trial of 50kms to see what you think, membership is £8:00 monthly after that.
From the first couple of pedal revs you’ll be blown away, it’s responsive and the technology really works.
Before long you can feel the hills and the descents, I even found myself waiting for the shade of the trees and descents, I was so immersed.
I have a Varidesk which enables me to stand up at my desk and is also perfect for raising up my monitors so that when I’m on my bike, I can see what’s on screen easier and even answer emails on a second monitor if urgent!
Courses include an imaginary car free fairyland called Watopia or, dependent on the date, the Richmond, Virginia World Championship circuit and the great thing is riding with others and the effort this inspires.
The phenomena is known as social facilitation and was first studied by Norman Triplett in 1898.
He studied the speed of cyclists and noticed that racing against each other rather than alone increased the cyclists’ speeds. Basically, we just can’t help ourselves!
Whether it’s trying to catch the person in front, prevent being caught, or just riding in a group with stronger riders, the presence of others makes us ride harder – its simple and that is what Zwift delivers, in bucketloads.
Along the way there are timed sections, hills and sprints, against which you are ranked against those currently ‘on the road’ and a reminder of personal best times to see what improvement you are making, but try riding steady and you’ll soon find the urge to ride harder and train more.
For me, with a busy job, time poor with two small children, being able to jump on the bike for an hour at lunchtimes is not only good for fitness but has also helped me escape to Watopia for an hour which is a very good place to be.
Well recommended and worth £8 a month of anyone’s money.
David Standard is an ex-Great Britain rider on track and road at both junior and senior level. He has been riding since the age of 6, starting with his father Sid Standard who owned a cycle shop in Nottingham for nearly 40 years.
He is a Dad of two with a degree in Psychology and is head of media relations at a law firm.